The leadership of the Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) has learned with disdain and disappointment that officials from the Home Affairs Department and the officers from the South African Police Services (SAPS) are on a concerted xenophobic which-hunt of farm workers, who are mainly nationals from Zimbabwe and Lesotho, and in the process have ‘arrested’ more than 140 in the town of Ceres and surrounding areas.
This morally repugnant campaign by Home Affairs and the Police was carried as from yesterday afternoon throughout the evening with workers taken from trucks and loaded to police vehicles and dropped off at the police stations.
We are aware of an emerging alliance between farmers; labour brokers, who some masquerade as supporters of farm workers struggles; and some in government, be they police officers, home affairs officials or councilors.
The purpose of this campaign is to mete out punishment to the farm workers, especially foreign nationals, for having engaged in historically unprecedented strike action in pursuit of their demands.
Foreign nationals are punished for having part of the strike and local farm workers, punished differently, for not been xenophobic. This farm workers maximum unity, and zero-xenophobia, surprised everyone, including FAWU.
Meanwhile, we reiterate our call, repeated on the 2nd February already, for the Minister of Home Affairs, Ms Naledi Pandoor, to extend or provide a special, even though temporary, dispensation to document farm workers on Western Cape farms and in the Boland in particular. We also called for foreign nationals working in the agricultural sector in general to be assisted with documentation and the practice of deporting workers to stop.
Additionally, in all sectors but particularly on farms, we demand that the notorious practice of police or immigration officials partnering with farmers by deporting undocumented workers on their pay day in particular, thereby enforcing workers to be unpaid for their labour, and any other day generally to be stopped immediately.
We should hasten to add that, we call on the Minister of Police, Nathi Mthethwa, to institute a quick commission of enquiry on the role of police officers in their involvement in these so-called deportation operations and alleged bribery and other corrupt activities that goes with this.
Equally important, we still repeat once more our call on farm owners not to victimize all farm workers but allow them back to work and to give access to trade unions to organize these workers and for them, as farm owners, to dialogue with trade unions.
Should government and Ministers ignore such noble calls to investigate these xenophobic and barbaric practices by some officers in the immigration agencies and police services, FAWU should not be faulted when it allow workers to mount a wave of strike actions in solidarity and support to these vulnerable workers.
We will seek to have an urgent meeting with both Minister Naledi Pandoor and Nathi Mthethwa so as to deal with this expeditiously.
For more information kindly contact Katishi Masemola, General Secretary, at 082 467 2509.